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Pie Jesu

My kids and I play a game where I put on a song and they guess the genre—I think of it as “Music 101 for youngsters.” Last night, while they lounged at the kitchen bar and I cooked dinner, I decided to throw opera into the mix. But, when it came to choosing a song, my mind went blank as my “knowledge” of opera is little more than an imagine of a large woman with a powdered face belting out Italian lyrics at glass-shattering volumes. Essentially, zero.

So, I relied on modern technology and streamed an opera station on Pandora. Interestingly, the song that came up was “Pie Jesu,” an Andrew Lloyd Webber requiem that would be better classified as classical than opera. But a genre debate is not the point of this story.

As Sarah Brightman and Paul miles-Kingston began to sing the haunting duet, their voices pure as silent snowfall, I was transported back in time to my early twenties. My grandfather, a man who had difficulty showing vulnerability to others, had invited me into his large den to listen to a song with him: “Pie Jesu.” We’d plopped into large recliner chairs, dimmed the lights, and played the song at a volume only tolerated by youth and seniors who are losing their hearing.

Though I thought it was a pretty song from the start, it wasn’t until I looked over at my grandfather and saw the tears streaming down his face, that I truly felt it. I don’t know if he was thinking of his father who had died of cancer at a young age or something else entirely, but he was grieving through the music. The kind of grief that feels right. Healing. The music gave him safe passage.

Twenty-years later, as the song ended, my eight-year old son asked me, “Daddy, why are you crying? Are you okay?”

“Yes,” I told him. “Sometimes crying feels good.”

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